While you’re frantically trying to figure out how to shove that last pair of jeans into an already over-stuffed suitcase, circling around the edges of your mix of excitement and anxiety of attending your upcoming writers conference, is the annoying whisper of, “Am I ready to pitch this?”
Before we tackle that question we need to celebrate the fact that you have completed your book. You have completed your book, right? You’ve sent through your critique group, beta readers, Mrs. Marsh the retired English teacher next door, and made all three of your siblings read it, right?
(seeing nods in the audience) Good. (leaning over to whisper to the wide-eyed optimists who didn’t nod) If it’s not finished, you need to finish it. (straightening) Right, pressing onward.
When you registered for your conference, did you research the editor/agent you requested? Wait, you did what? Threw a dart at a chart? (shaking head) No, no, no. Go back and do your research. Find out what the editor/agency is looking for. Does it match your work/voice? What were their recent acquisitions? How long has the editor or agent been with the agency? Are they just starting out or have they carved their niche within the hallowed walls? Are you looking for representation (via agent) or do you want to bypass Go straight to the publishing house (editor)? These are things you want to know before you ever leave your house on your conference journey. The answers will do two things: allow you to imagine your work with this agent/editor and assist you in sounding like the professional you are when you sit across from said agent/editor.
Next question: does your query sear the retinas with its brilliance? It does? Great, go print out a couple of copies to bring with you. Consider it notes for when your mind spins in place during your pitch. (Not to be the bearer of bad news, but you will blank under the pressure of nerves.) You want this with you as you meet with your chosen one, because they will ask you questions about your story. Granted, you know your book inside and out, but when you’re sitting across from an individual with the ability to change your day with a single yes or no thank you, it’s nice to have the back up of your query to refer to when the stars start to blind you.
Next: do you have your pitch? This is the one sentence hook of your story where names aren’t important, but characters and what they face are. Think of STAR WARS as: A farm boy in a faraway galaxy joins a courageous Rebellion against an evil Empire. If you’re in need of assistance on how to craft this, try these articles:
Don’t go in without this very crucial weapon. If you do, I promise you will come out whimpering in defeat.
Lastly, bring your business card. Simple as this is, it’s important. You want to be able to give the agent/editor a way to discover you. Trust me, if they do request your materials, they’re going to want to check you out as well.
Alright, now that you’re as prepared as you’re going to get, here’s my advice on what to do during the actual pitch. Ready? It’s a doozy.
Treat it as a conversation between two professionals. What do I mean by this? Well, I’m the first to admit I’m a nervous mess when I have to meet people I don’t know. The way I’ve survived my pitch sessions: treating it like the business conversation it truly is.
I remind myself that I have a product that deserves the best representation it can get. Therefore, in actuality, I am interviewing prospective business partners. I am not less important than them, we are, in fact, on equal footing. I have something they want, and they have something I want. Remember, agent or editor, they ultimately work for you because if you don’t make money, neither will they.
If you can internalize this concept, you’re ahead of the game. It gives you back some of the control of the nerve-wracking situation. If you were going to go into business with an individual, you wouldn’t be apologetic about your product (I’m sure you’ve seen this before but…), you wouldn’t privately consider the meeting a pie in the sky endeavor (I know they’re just being nice to me), and you sure as hell would be on your best professional behavior (no gimmicks here).
Go in prepared, go in knowing your work is the best it can be, and go in looking for just the right partner to help you showcase this beauty. You do that, and I bet you’ll exit those pitch sessions flying high.
You can do this, so go forth and nab yourself a professional partnership!
Have tips on surviving a pitch session? I want to hear them, so feel free sharing them in the comments below!